Tuesday, December 12, 2006

WIP (Work In Progress) - Sadie I

My sister, Circe, blogged about my little angel-dog over at Purrs & Scratches, so I was inspired to actually show you a WIP of a watercolor I am working on of my little munchkin. I am taking minor creative license, skewing the angle for the best composition.

Here is the preliminary drawing followed by the first step in rendering the doglet.

This is my first pet portrait, so keep your fingers crossed! Whatever I paint, I tend to start with the lightest values, especially any yellows, then jump into the darks.

On to the specs. This is woodless graphite and Winsor & Newton watercolor paints on Arches 140-Lb. Hot Press paper (here I am working on a 10" x 14" block). Thus far the paints used are Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna, and Burnt Umber.

I plan to use French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber for my darks, adjusting the proportions for warm and cool tones. For the background, which is my pale skin (since I'm hugging her), I will likely use mixtures of Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, and Burnt Umber with lots of water to let the white of the paper show through and glow.

I'll update this post as I make progress, which tends to be slow (I work in fits...this start of golds came in one evening). Thanks for looking! :)

EDIT (7/6/2007): I put this painting away for a long time. I felt that I had ruined it with the bold darks. I changed the original plan of dark muddy colors to a muted dark color mixed from Phthalo Blue (Daler-Rowney) and Cadmium Red (WN). Now I step back and I like them. Tonight I uploaded the third step. So I am past a point of no return...one of these days I will wrap this one up!

EDIT (12/18/2008): I pulled this painting out after not looking at it for over a year. I suddenly was inspired to take the blocked-in piece and continue to develop it. I added more darks (combinations of cadmium red, pthalo blue, Daniel Smith perylene maroon, and FUB), softened edges, and began blocking in the rest of her body. I am thinking I will leave the bottom unfinished, and although my arms are holding her, I think I will only hint at that with some soft warm greys. I'll post a final as soon as I'm done!

EDIT (12/28/2008): Finally finished Sadie last week and framed her up yesterday as a birthday gift to Anthony. I cropped her a smidge to keep the focus on her eyes. I wanted to capture her noble profile and her sweet, and (sometimes) intelligent nature. I just suggested the hand holding her to help integrate her with the white background and also, the hand is only important to give her a sense of scale.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Where to start about this piece. For starters I finally got over my horrific creative block.This calf's mother had died and he had to be bottle-fed to that point. Buster is docile; he will drink milk and eat feed from a bucket if you brush him. He lived in the old saddle house with another younger calf in the same position to protect them from coyotes. He has since grown and rejoined the rest of the herd.

This image is particularly symbolic to me after a year of tremendous loss, including that of the owner of this calf, my grandfather, who ironically had been an orphan growing up during the Great Depression.

My sister, known on the web as Circe, who is the subject of this watercolor, is actually 28 although she looks much younger here with the odd angle and her childlike demeanor. The reference photo for this was taken just six weeks ago after that family tragedy. My extended family rallied around my grandmother at our family farm to help out.

The negative spaces were and are interesting to me...I always loved how Mary Cassatt created a very intimate environment for her subjects by making such lovely negative shapes (see La Toilette, 1891). I do feel that my photograph is better than my watercolor, but I am pretty satisfied with this as my first true watercolor portrait.

This was also my first painting on a block of 140-lb. Arches Cold Pressed paper, sketched and painted almost entirely upside-down to simplify shapes. I used a simplified palette of WN French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber, with hints of DS Quinacridone Coral and WN Permanent Rose to enhance the glow of the setting sun reflecting inside the shed onto white portions of the scene, such as the T-shirt and Buster's face.

EDIT: This piece is in the CCP Summer Art Show...check their link in my "Art Links" at left to see some interesting and wide ranging work!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Angel's Painting

So this is my commission for Angel. It is 4'x6' canvas, painted in acrylic...mostly Golden tube paints thinned with water and gloss medium/glaze. Glaze makes me so happy. It makes your paint more transparent when you mix it but keeps the viscosity from getting too thin, helps create interesting texture, and can be used between layers of paint to enhance depth. It also helps your tubes acrylic paint flow better than mixing it with water alone. I love to varnish the final product with glaze to give it that finished glossy look...plus it protects the paint layers!

I used thin layers of iridescent gold (fine) on select areas to make them pop...my concept here was to paint in reverse the subtractive effects of pigment. Normally, the more pigment you add and mix onto a surface the darker it gets, closer to black (or mud). I wanted to play with the idea of making these overlapping circles more like transparencies used in theatrical lighting, which exploit the additive properties of light (your computer monitor also uses this feature in its RGB scheme). When you mix layers of colored light with one another they approach white light. This is the reverse of what happens when a prism breaks light down into the full spectrum of colors or when water vapor refracts light into its components to form a rainbow.

So if you look closely at the painting there are certain rules employed...as the circles of light interact they get lighter, and toward the center where multiple circles overlap they approach white light. To heighten this drama I used iridescent gold pigment...it needed a little visual push to formalize the relationships.

To get the textures evident in the circles I used plastic wrap on wet sections and experimented with timing and pressure, while trying to minimize spreading the wet paint all over the canvas! It was a messy process indeed. But isn't art supposed to be messy?

My inspiration for this painting was "Polyphonic Setting for White" by Paul Klee, who was simply a genius. I have been a big fan of expressionistic and formal abstract art since high school but have only come around to a true appreciation of Klee's work in the past few months. I usually prefer Kandinsky, DeKooning, Kline, Krasner...even a little Pollack. I love exploring the different reasons these great men (and women) made abstract art...to me the thought process is as important as the work itself. I know Pollack would agree with the concept of art being the process even more than the result of painting and that the residue is virtually irrelevant. It is a very provocative thought.

To many artists this is an existential issue and one that challenges, or in some cases is an expression of, why they create. The process of integrating your vision into your individual psyche and in turn interpreting the world through your eyes in your work is inherent to why you exist on this earth. In fact, the effort to find a "style" is useless, because if an artist is true to her own vision, every piece is an expression, celebration, and discovery of who the artist really is. Art-making is thus meditation, psychotherapy, and catharsis all rolled up into one for most artists.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Homage to the Artichoke

So this is my first blog entry. How much pressure is this? Gee whiz.

So here is my last watercolor. Yes, it is an artichoke. I love artichokes. Anthony tells me that one day I will eat so many I will turn into one. When I completed this painting I uploaded it as my avatar/profile picture on MySpace. My sister's comment: "Holy Hell! Shannon's turned into an artichoke!"

My favorite childhood memory was sitting on my den floor with my whole family, eating steamed artichokes in front of the television. Not to date myself, but it was often an accompaniment to one of my two favorite tv shows, The Greatest American Hero, or Little House on the Prairie.

So we would put down beach towels and all sit on the floor, dipping artichoke leaves into a lemon-butter-garlic sauce, which remains to this day my favorite way to consume them. When we got down to the hearts my dad would surgically cut out the choke and we would all fight over pieces of the heart.

Even now I love them in front of the tv, but now my dachshund, Sadie, begs for some. She loves to eat the leaves (yes, I actually hold the leaf while she scrapes the meat off with her choppers) and she adores the hearts. I have pictures to prove it. But I also love artichoke hearts in pasta, salads, on pizza....you name it, I love it. So this is my homage to my favorite food, the artichoke.

EDIT: This piece was in the CCP Winter Art Show...see their link (Creative Catalyst Productions) in my "Art Links" at right for some wonderful still life art!